Igor Sikorsky with his ‘Ilya Muromets’ plane in Kyiv in 1914

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“Very few people had come to the field because our plane was not expected on that rainy morning. The Secretary of the Aeronautical Society of Kiev, however, was there, The first thing he said after congratulating us was to inform us that the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria had been murdered in Serajevo. While not foreseeing the enormous historical consequences, we all somehow realized the seriousness of the event. Kiev gave us a great and friendly welcome. For several days, crowds of people visited the airport and looked over the “Ilia Mourometz.” Several flights were made carrying friends, city officials and others. My father was not very strong at that time and he usually stayed at home. A few days later, however, we procured a large closed car and drove him to the airport. I was particularly happy to demonstrate the plane in flight to him and he later said he was impressed by the smooth and steady flight of the large ship.

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One evening during our stay in Kiev, air service officers arranged a dinner for the crew of the “Ilia Mouromets” It was a nice, clear summer evening. The party was held in the elegant garden house of the Chamber of Commerce, situated on the summit of one of the hills with an exceptionally beautiful view directly overlooking the Dnieper. It was a joyful affair which lasted until daybreak.

But in my memory it is connected with sorrow. Many of the fine, young officers who attended this dinner lost their lives shortly afterwards. My brother was killed in a naval battle in the Baltic Sea about three months later. Another guest, Captain Nesterov, the first man in the world to make a loop in an aeroplane, died about the same time in one of the first combats in the air, having destroyed the enemy plane. Of the companions of our flight, Captain Prussis was killed in an aeroplane accident. Similar stories could be told about other young officers whom I saw for the last time during that dinner. After a few more restful and pleasant days in Kiev, the “ Ilia Mourometz ” took off, early in the morning of July nth, for the north…

About 5 p.m., we saw ahead of us the well-known black spot on the horizon, and soon afterwards we were flying over Petrograd. Tired but happy, I landed on the familiar runway of the military airport. The 1,600 mile flight proved conclusively the value of large multi-motored aeroplanes. Even our mishaps helped to substantiate claims that had been made for the large ship. The Army placed an order for ten four-engined aeroplanes of the ”Ilia Mourometz” type and the factory personnel was overjoyed by this final approval of the results of two years of hard work.” [I. Sikorsky, The Winged-S]

PART 1: Igor Sikorsky’s record-breaking flight >

Ilya Muromets’ Real Name >

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